Customer Review

22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Or a Shackled God?, 1 May 2013
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: BioShock Infinite (PS3) (Video Game)
A very tricky one to review, this.

Let me say right from the off that this IS a good game, and I do recommend it. It certainly makes you want to keep on playing. If you've never played a Bioshock game before, go out and give this is a try. It'll be different and well-worth playing.

However, if you're already familiar with Bioshock, this is where it gets a bit tricky...

(A quick disclaimer though: I haven't finished this game yet. I'm about two thirds through, so this is subject to an update. Also the following isn't a rant; it's just trying to illustrate a point...)

Bioshock Infinite is the gloriously sculpted, shiny chassis of a Ferrari Enzo bolted onto the misfiring engine of a mid-90s Fiat that's stuck in second gear. It is not anywhere near as good as it thinks it is - or at least, wanted to be.

OK, it has a beautiful new setting in Columbia. Yes, it has a not-annoying AI partner in Elizabeth and yes, it has a couple of nice new touches in the Skyrail system and the `tears' idea. As I say, it IS a good game. But if you look underneath the bonnet...

The Unreal Engine in BI is very dated. It cannot handle the scope of the game and you can see visually and mechanically that the Skyrail system is nowhere near as complex and intertwining as it was intended to be (they are essentially glorified staircases). The character designs (and textures) are not sufficient enough to convey the emotional axis that is supposed to be the beating heart of the story. It's functional, but not brilliant. For any normal game this would be fine, but for BI (or what Ken Levine envisioned it as), it is not up to scratch.

The gameplay structure is very dated. It worked in Bioshock 1 because of the awe-inducing environments. But here, battling your way through to the destination (door) only to be told you need to spend 1-2 hours re-tracing your steps (across naturally linear platforms - they are floating buildings) to find a `key' to open it (and then repeat) is not fun. If you wanted to be really cynical; it's tedious.

Mechanically, you can no longer hold things in an inventory, which essentially means that you have to investigate and search every `trash' can you come across in a system that is essentially `scrounge-and-pound' rather than `get-lost-in and admire' (a brilliant city).

There are other points too, which I won't go into in detail. But suffice to say the AI, Vigors (Plasmids), upgrades, Voxophones (Audio Diaries), map (there isn't one!) and even the menu systems are all far inferior to the original's versions.

Now, some might say that it has been streamlined into a more focused, combat-orientated shooter that is much more fast-paced, intense and in some places breathtaking. Valid point. Others might say the organic multi-layered choice of exploration-led gameplay has been completely removed in favour of `shoot and move and shoot and move and...' on a floating city. Valid point.

I'm not `taking sides', but for me Bioshock has gone from a perfectly-paced story-led adventure that used FPS as its delivery medium; to a blatantly stripped-bare shooter that has had a story of such weight lumped on top of it that it's actually broken the pillars the series was built on in the first place.

I won't comment on the full story yet as I haven't finished it, but so-far I think it is too brash. It is so apparent and so overtly oppressed onto you right from the start that `all is not what it seems', that you actually are expecting a twist or three, which completely defies the point of having a twist. I hope my opinion on this will change by the end, as many people are championing the story and the ending, so I look forward to that.

There is another valid point too which could be the crux of the whole thing/not important at all depending on your point of view, which I may put in the comments section later, but that is not within the scope of a review.

Now, I'm not trying to dissuade people from the game here. I'm in no way saying it's bad. It does have the `magic' that makes you want to keep playing. But ... I can't help but feel a little disappointed by Infinite. It feels ... hollow.

That said, the variety of enemies is much improved; the `Houdini Splicer' equivalent is a swine to kill and will cause you problems. And the robotised Patriot is a marvel. Praise should go to Irrational for giving us a game with balls - this is not easy and you'll have to think about what you're doing, which is an all-but-lost aspect of modern games.

But, it seems to me that no matter how many good things BI does or tries to do - and there are plenty - it's as if Ken Levine's original vision has just been bottlenecked into whatever the PS3 (or perhaps more specifically, the 360) is capable of outputting.

I know that all and sundry and saying it's the best thing ever and the `official' reviews are falling over each other to kneel at its feet, but any gamer worth their salt(s) can see that this game is compromised.

Ultimately, though, Bioshock Infinite is a good game whichever way you slice it, and please don't let the tone of this review put you off - that is not my intention. As I say, I am enjoying it, and you will enjoy playing it too. Just be prepared to not love it.

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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 May 2013 22:34:14 BDT
Bubo says:
Impressive review!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 May 2013 15:03:49 BDT
Thanks Bubo. I appreciate that.

Posted on 2 Jun 2013 17:10:49 BDT
J. Knowles says:
Thanks a lot for this great review. As it's been a month since you wrote it, have you had any other thoughts regarding the game in general?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2013 16:40:45 BDT
Thanks J. Knowles. Very glad you liked it!

Yes, I have had. It's one of those games that leaves thoughts swimming in your head for days after you complete it - both good and bad. So much so I chose not to post an update because it's impossible to quantify.

With the filter of time however, my review still stands but with the following additions:

Skyrail System: Although largely pointless in the first two thirds, it does get better towards the end. Two-set pieces in particular use it very well and they're a bit more justified in the latter stages. Unfortunately though, still nowhere near the 'in-game' footage from the trailers.

The Business End: I'll be brutally honest here. I found the last quarter of the game excruciating. Not 'difficult' - just painful. Two reasons as to why: Firstly, the relentless enemies. I know it's a shooter, but the amount of baddies you have to kill in the last quarter makes Call of Duty look like a picnic. There's so many of them it's tiring, and the trouble is it actually detracts from the game - the level design and scenarios toward the end are really good, but you can't enjoy them because all you're doing is shooting. The story has correctly kicked-in to overdrive at this point too, but you miss a lot of the content and clues because you're running around killing everything. Tiresome.

Secondly, the pacing is awful. You know that obligatory 'scene' in games where you know you've reached the 'point of no return' and now it's full-steam-ahead to the end? Well for some deranged reason, that happens in this game about two thirds through and you end up preparing for the last boss about twenty times. By the time it comes you're already 'past it'.

As for the story and the ending? Well, they're worth seeing. The story is ambitious and truly beyond anything we've seen before, which by default deserves credit (and is the sole reason I carried on right through to the end), but I have to concede I'm not sure if it actually 'fits' in a game. It's almost too far beyond what games are capable of harnessing. But yes, certainly worth seeing, and again praise to Irrational for aiming so very high.

(Random point - if anyone is going insane over the last Boss; don't worry. there IS a way of doing it (not a 'trick', just a 'way'), and it's not as impossible as first seems. If anyone's stuck, drop me a line).

So yes, I can't say that Infinite is brilliant, because it simply isn't, whatever flavour of gamer you may be. BUT, it is worth playing. There are some sublime ideas here and anyone who has seen the pre-release trailers will know what this game wanted to be. I do still recommend it. I think though, that it perhaps aimed just a little too high.
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